This month has been a busy one for area junior players.
Whether serving and volleying in national tournaments, state designated contests or local sanctioned events, juniors' competitive enterprises have been concentrated.
Emily Dvorak and Shaunte Southern were among 36 Florida players invited in the 14-and-under age division to the Zone Team Championships in Naples. Florida competed among USTA sections Northern California, Southern California and Southwest.
This week, Alex Saltiel and Adam Ambrozy travel to Nashville for the 12-and-under zonals. Also this week, Kara Kucin, Becky Bodine and Matt Herrock are in Winston-Salem, N.C., for the 16 zonals.
Later this month, Lindsay Dvorak and Alex Cercone travel to California for the National 18 Team Championships.
Amy Lowther was among 40 chosen to compete in the Team Florida Challenge for 14-and-unders in Boca Raton.
Competing in USTA National Clay Court Championships so far have been Kimberly Herrock in the 12s and Bodine, Emily Dvorak, Julianne Gruber, Lowther and Southern the 14. Bodine reached the round of 16 in the 128-player draw.
Last weekend, about 40 juniors competed in a local sanctioned tournament, Summer Classic Too, at Safety Harbor Spa. Collecting singles awards were Jade Smith in the girls 12 round robin, Julian Haerle boys 12 and top seed Austin Kondor 16.
The North Florida Designated Tournament in Tallahassee last weekend included almost 30 locals among the 440 overall. Jorge Guerra was the No. 1 seed in the boys 18, Bodine No. 2 in the girls 16, Danielle Collins No. 3 in the 18 and Alexandra Kitchen No. 4 in the 12.
Guerra claimed the boys 18 after defeating No. 5 Garrett Betsarakis of St. Petersburg in the final. Bodine clinched the girls 16 title, Kitchen was a 12 finalist, unseeded Anastasia Nefedova placed fourth in the 12 and Collins reached the 18 final.
"I was pleased with getting to the final," said Collins, 13. "I feel that my whole game has improved in the last six months with my serve, forehands and backhands so much more solid."
Also competing in the Tallahassee designated contest among the girls were Nefedova in the 12; Agatha Ambrozy and Lowther the 14; Emily Dvorak, Julianne Gruber, Alyssa Bellini and Ariana Zayac the 16; Abby Wright 18. Boys included Anthony Barrancotto, Aaron Ellison, Michael Kopelman and Kirk Kucin in the 18; Garrett Betsarakis 16; Zachary Bandes, Robert Dvorak, Brandon Myers, Alexander Saltiel, Michael Beiler and Ricky Symanski 14; Ganesh Rajaram, Parker Hayslett and Adam Ambrozy the 12.
This weekend, 14 Pinellas junior teams will participate in the USTA Florida Summer Junior Team Tennis Championships. Local teams include those from St. Petersburg Country Club, St. Pete Beach, Treasure Bay, St. Petersburg Tennis Center, PAL, Southwest Complex in Largo, Bardmoor, Renaissance Vinoy and McMullen of Clearwater.
TENNIS LOSES A FRIEND: The local tennis community lost a passionate tennis advocate with this month's passing of Gene Biittner, 80, of Seminole. When the Notre Dame graduate and his wife moved to Pinellas County in the 1950s, Biittner worked in education, including stints at Boca Ciega and Seminole high schools and 18 years at St. Petersburg Junior College, rising to the dean of student services.
Following his retirement, the former junior and college tennis player directed his efforts to promoting tennis, especially senior leagues, and was a force in the development of the USTA Senior Doubles League for players at least 50.
The tennis community best remembers Biittner as a fervent and committed player/coach/captain who always displayed sportsmanship and evidenced kindness toward fellow players.